UPDATED: Traffic stop apprehends 50 undocumented migrants in rural Presidio County

Photo courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

PRESIDIO COUNTY — A traffic stop on a remote stretch of U.S. 67 in Presidio County on Friday morning led to the arrest of 50 undocumented migrants.

Outside of migrant families, who sometimes present themselves in large groups to federal agents at the border, it’s the biggest number of undocumented immigrants that the Big Bend Sector of Border Patrol has apprehended in recent years, an agency spokesman said on Friday. One of the last high-profile local incidents, in Marfa in September 2019, netted just around 10 migrants.

The arrests happened at around 11 a.m. on Friday, when deputies with the Presidio County Sheriff’s Office stopped a northbound vehicle. The vehicle was towing an RV without license plates, the sheriff’s office stated on social media.

Authorities stopped the vehicle and searched it, ultimately finding the undocumented migrants. Although initial reports said there were 51 migrants, Border Patrol later gave that number as 50.

The migrants were from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico and allegedly admitted to entering the United States unlawfully, the sheriff’s office stated. All the migrants were taken into custody alive, according to Border Patrol.

Authorities have not released more information, including details on the driver. But according to a social-media post from Border Patrol, the driver was also arrested and is facing charges for human smuggling.

The incident reportedly happened around 20 miles south of Marfa — but by afternoon, the RV had been cleared and there were no signs of the dramatic traffic stop.

The Border Patrol checkpoint south of Marfa was closed, and several Border Patrol vehicles were seen driving north from where the incident occurred. The immigration agency is now in charge of the case, the sheriff’s office stated.

In an interview Friday afternoon, a Border Patrol spokesperson said that — due to coronavirus policy changes — all the migrants would be processed for “immediate deportation.”

“We don’t know where these people have been at all,” he said. “We’re trying desperately to avoid holding people for an extended period of time.” In the event that any migrants were coronavirus positive, Border Patrol wanted to avoid the possibility of infections among agents or residents, he said.

The agency is still investigating other aspects of the case — including whether the RV crossed the border with migrants or whether the migrants were picked up elsewhere in the region.

“If they did make it across the border” in the RV, a Border Patrol spokesperson said of the migrants, “they were probably paying their life’s savings to do so.”

The Presidio County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the incident.